Alive and well

RETIREMENT holds no allure for Wakes Music and Sewing Centre owner Eric Wake, despite being in the industry for more than half a century and having two close encounters with death.

Mr Wake opened the doors to his music store on Albany Highway in July 1967 but said he was operating a business well before then.

He said he helped his father run a BP service station in Katanning from age 12 and was in charge of ordering fuel, chocolates and cigarettes.

“I’d get on the train to Albany and pick up the order,” the Albany business stalwart told The Weekender.

“I’d go and have a milkshake and share the chocolates with some of the other passengers on the train.”

When an apprenticeship opportunity arose at a Katanning electronics shop, teenage Wake jumped at the chance to gain more work experience.

“It was called TS Young and Co and we sold everything,” he said.

“Records, electronics, guns, lawnmowers…

“Then one day, a rep’ from Elna came in and asked if we sold sewing machines, so my boss asked me to do demonstrations.”

Mr Wake surprised himself and said he found sewing “quite interesting.”

So much so that he decided to take it upon himself to open an Elna store in Albany when the Elna represesntative expressed interest in migrating the brand down south.

“They really needed someone in Albany, so I moved down and started selling LPs and sewing machines,” Mr Wake said.

“One day, I got a letter with a plane ticket to Switzerland to visit the Elna factory.

“Switzerland’s beautiful.”

Mr Wake continued to run his Albany store in conjunction with an East Perth music shop and a Katanning sewing shop in the 1970s.

But committing to three stores – and the associated travel up and down the highway– nearly ended in disaster for him in the early 1980s.

“I was spreading myself too thin,” he said.

“And I didn’t like the travel.

“I had a head-on collision near Mount Barker where the other driver came onto the wrong side of the road.

“Then a couple of years later, I was involved in another crash and the bones in the lower half of my body were all broken.”

Mr Wake was told he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and would never walk again.

“I actually died on the table,” he said.

“I felt myself leave my body.”

Three years of rehabilitation got Mr Wake back on his feet.

“I was in a wheelchair but I didn’t like that, so I was on crutches for a while and then I was hobbling around on a cane,” he said.

“I gave Poptronics [the Katanning store] to my brother and closed the Perth shop.”

But nothing was, or is, going to stand between Mr Wake and his beloved Albany shop.

“If I retire, I’d only talk to the dog and do the gardening,” he said.

“I’d miss the wonderful relationships with the lovely people who come here.

“The older I get, the more I want to help people, so when people come here as a stress reliever, it gives me a buzz.

“Music is love, warmth and friendship.”

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Woolsheds overhaul

THE defunct woolsheds on the corner of Melville and Festing Streets in central Albany could become a site for self-sustaining houses if a group of university architecture students have anything to do with it.

University of Western Australia students Sarah Brooke, Grace Kocsis and Alex Negri were three of 23 budding architects who visited Albany from Perth this week to re-design unused spaces around town.

Ms Brooke focused on the historic woolshed ruins, Ms Kocsis on a concentrate pad beside Mount Clarence and Mr Negri on a vacant area near the port terminal.

Ms Brooke said her houses would have low environmental impact and that people would be able to adapt her designs to suit themselves.

“I’m looking at how to create a transient community that can be self sufficient,” she said.

“It would be awesome if they could be completely off the grid.

“There would be an opportunity for community gardens too, and potentially using the woolshed structure as a marketplace, maybe once a week.”

Ms Kocsis said she wanted to create a communal space for residents and visitors on Mount Clarence that could be moved to different locations.

“We’re looking at structures that aren’t locked down in a spot, very transparent and fluid,” she said.

“One idea is a seed bank, for collecting plant specimens from the area.

“It will be a place where people can teach and learn through caretaking and collecting the specimens that might not be there in the future.”

Mr Negri said his side of the project would kickstart the others.

“The port facility would be designed to construct the other two projects,” he said.

“The idea is that the dwellings will be constructed here and taken to the wool sheds site in shipping containers.”

He said the port facility was difficult to design, as it relied on the other two projects.

He hoped his design would provide people with knowledge about how industry works.

“I’ve designed the current footpath to wrap around the building and to have the building see-through, so people walking past can see the factory workers at work,” he said.

Architecture lecturer Mark Jecks said the visit marked the first studio unit to be held in Albany.

“If the landowner likes the initiative, they could potentially come to an agreement with the student,” Mr Jecks said of the wool sheds dwelling idea.

He said the final projects would be exhibited at UWA Crawley in coming weeks.

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Short-stay say

THE Albany and Denmark chambers of commerce are preparing a joint submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation.

Denmark Chamber of Commerce CEO Liz Jack said her group conducted a survey of Denmark business owners, residents and short-stay accommodation providers.

“Airbnb is a part of the disruptive economy we live in,” she said.

“It’s not as black and white as saying Airbnb is good or bad for the economy.”

Ms Jack said there were arguments on both sides of the industry to regulate and to not regulate online services such as AirBnb.

“We need to open the debate on how to level the playing field for commercial accommodation operations and short-stay accommodation,” she said.

“Commercial operations have to pay heavier taxes on their business than people operating out of their homes.

“On the other hand short-stay accommodation brings more money to the town through tourism and also through the purchase of goods and services.”

She said there were plenty of questions surrounding short-stay accommodation that would hopefully be addressed during the inquiry.

“We need to ask ourselves how we would monitor the growth of Airbnb,” she said.

“How do we develop a sustainable tourism industry?

“It’s an interesting vortex of issues that need to be addressed.”

Last year, The Weekender revealed the State planning department was considering a “continuum of options” from “very light-handed” to full regulation to address issues arising from short-term stays in the era of the online sharing economy (‘Short-stay spectrum’, 22 November).

Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Acting CEO Michael Clark said Ms Jack was the driving force behind the submission.

“Seeing how Airbnb affects commercial operations and small business operators is definitely an eye opening experience,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see how it all goes with potential future regulation.”

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Fruits of labour

ALBANY city councillor Robert Sutton and his partner Debbie Walker are set to build a pomegranate shack on their 40-hectare Napier property now a development application to do so has been approved.

Mr Sutton says he enjoys getting his hands dirty at the couple’s pomegranate orchard.

“We planted our first few hundred trees in 2015 after Debbie’s niece introduced us to pomegranates,” he says.

“The health benefits of pomegranates absolutely staggered us.

“After I saw that most pomegranates you can buy in supermarkets are imported from America I saw the opportunity to fill a niche market.”

Since then Mr Sutton and Ms Walker have planted 3000 trees and have decided to broaden their horizons.

“Pomegranates have taken over my life and to see the results of having fruiting trees from what was an empty paddock is amazing,” he says.

“We decided after last season that we didn’t want to head down the normal line and that we wanted to try value adding to our fruit.”

Mr Sutton says he and Ms Walker made three trips to Turkey last year to learn from farmers who have cultivated the fruits for centuries.

“Getting the right information is hard, which is why we’ve been going to Turkey,” he says.

“We’re importing a special juicer that will fresh freeze the pomegranates so no water gets into the juice.”

Mr Sutton says a wide variety of products will eventually be sold from the pomegranate shack.

“We want to make pomegranate ice cream using Turkish methods that use pure pomegranate juice and no water,” he explains.

“And we want to make pomegranate molasses or pomegranate lemon, which is what the Turkish call it.

“It’s sweet but tart at the same time.”

Ms Walker says the shack will sell juicers so people can hand-press their own pomegranates.

“We’ve also spoken with a local winemaker to eventually provide them with our juice and them make wine for us,” she adds.

“I would love to eventually see a sparkling pomegranate wine that we can sell.”

Mr Sutton says it will be a few months until the business is up and running.

“It’s going to be a big year,” he says.

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Nullaki concern

THE City of Albany has declined to say if it will appeal last week’s State Administrative Tribunal overruling of Albany council’s unanimous refusal of plans for a lime pit at Nullaki Peninsula.

Asked if the City would appeal the decision, Acting Mayor Greg Stocks said the City would “take some time to review the SAT’s finding and conditions imposed and will be guided by its legal counsel on this matter”.

Cr Stocks said the tribunal’s decision last Thursday came down to technicalities of interpretation, and expert advice presented by developer Graeme Robertson that issues of concern could be managed.

He said he was surprised that an extractive industry was considered consistent with the objectives and provisions of the area’s conservation zoning.

“We actively defended our position and are puzzled and bitterly disappointed we have been unsuccessful and understand the community will be too,” he said.

Mr Robertson told The Weekender the ruling was a “win-win” situation.

He said it was a win for Great Southern farmers, as the pit would provide a natural resource “saving them approximately 50 per cent on their cost of obtaining first grade agriculture lime” in the region.

And he said it was a win for the environment with a maximum of three hectares to be cleared temporarily in lieu of the 21 hectares originally recommended for approval by the City.

“As far back as 2006, I have been approached by farmers in the Great Southern who were aware of the vast lime deposits on the Nullaki and were trucking the majority of the 300,000 tonnes required annually for the area from Margaret River,” he said.

“With the increased use of superphosphate in the Great Southern, the soil acidity increases, and to balance the pH. The only remedy is the application of agricultural lime.”

Nullaki resident Angela Dickinson, who lives about 2km from the proposed extraction site, said lots of locals were “really upset” by the ruling.

She said she was concerned about the potential spread of dieback, increased traffic and noise, and threats to already threatened flora and fauna.

“People choose to live in the country to get away from noise,” Ms Dickinson said.

“[With the lime pit]… there will be 14 laden trucks per day – which is 28 truck movements back and forth each day – so that’s about three or four trucks per hour past peoples’ driveways.

“It’s highly inappropriate to be extracting from a high conservation zone.”

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Trio says ‘no’

AS A controversial Shell service station inches toward completion on Albany Highway, three businesses that have elsewhere co-located with Shell have ruled out occupying an attached shop and lunch bar.

Fresh Trading Co’s John Wood and Julie McCarron, whose business shares a service station with Shell in the Perth suburbs of Welshpool and Ascot, have told The Weekender they do not “have any properties forecast for the Albany region”.

Gloria Jean’s Coffees, which has a drive-thru service at Shell in Ascot, were in the same boat.

“I was really hoping it might be a Gloria Jean’s Coffees store opening at the Albany site but alas, it’s not,” said Christina Jones, a spokeswoman for the coffee chain.

And with more than 20 Shell servos across Perth having a Coles Express, a Coles spokesperson said the national food retailer had no plans to occupy the service station’s shop.

Project proponent Peter D. Webb & Associates director Nik Hidding said he was “not permitted” to speak with media about the service station.

Victorian-based developer Procon Developments was contacted for comment.

The emerging Shell has long been contentious due to its close proximity to Albany’s main entry roundabout, which sees more traffic crashes than any other intersection in regional Western Australia.

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Prem born again

ALBANY’S historic Premier Hotel could see customers walking through its arch doors as soon as Christmas this year if all goes to plan.

The heritage listed building was gutted by fire in May 2016 in an arson attack instigated by then licensee Graeme Cooper.

The building has been vacant ever since and, with several windows now broken and graffiti on its exterior, is fast approaching eyesore status.

The Weekender reported in January last year that H+H Architects had drafted plans to restore the 1891-built pub to its original grandeur.

This week, project manager and builder John Boccamazzo, of Realforce, said remedial work was underway to prepare parts of the site for a demolition phase that would last three to four weeks.

He said some of the historic elements of the hotel would be kept, such as the staircase, entry cornices and arch doorframes.

However, several walls would be removed to allow for larger interior spaces.

“The owners had a change of scope about the accommodation, so now there will be no accommodation and it will just be a tavern,” Mr Boccamazzo said.

“So we’ve spent the past 12 months redesigning.

“We are going to remove the bedrooms upstairs, and upstairs will have a lounge-style area, a function room, a bar and a manager’s quarters.”

He said when completed, the hotel would be able to hold up to 600 people.

There will be a first and second-floor veranda and a ground-floor alfresco area facing Grey Street.

Mr Boccamazzo said the interior design would keep to a “heritage, industrial, rustic” look.

He said the hotel’s bottle shop would be refurbished.

“We hope to present the plans for approval to the City in the next few weeks,” he said.

Real estate agent Barry Panizza, one of 11 co-owners of the hotel building, said he looked forward to watching the 2020 Around the Houses car rally from the top balcony.

“It’s an exciting project for us,” he said.

“We will be looking for a hotel operator as we get closer to the deadline.”

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Alternative burn theory

A SCIENTIST who turned prescribed burns on their head over east by finding fires there make forests more likely to burn is in the Great Southern to see if he can help reduce bushfire risk here.

This week, University of Wollongong fire behaviour specialist Phil Zylstra has inspected tingle forest at Douglas Hill, beside Frankland River, and met with conservationists and senior Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions staff.

“My research contradicts one of the central assumptions in Australian fire management – that forest simply accumulates fuel over time and becomes increasingly flammable,” Dr Zylstra said.

He looked at the Australian Alps bioregion, from the highest mountains down to sea level.

“For close to 100 years, graziers and naturalists have been saying you shouldn’t burn snow gum country there because it makes it thicken up and become more flammable,” he said.

Dr Zylstra focused on the bioregion’s fire history, not on theory.

“I found it wasn’t just snow gum forest, it was all forest, so everything from low dry woodland to tall wet forests and right up to the treeline, all areas were far more flammable when they were in a regrowth phase,” he told The Weekender.

“There has been a consistent pattern there where straight after fire it’s not very flammable for a little while because you’ve cleared a lot of the vegetation, but you also germinate a lot of shrubs and you cause that regrowth to happen.”

He said that as the forest was re-building, it was a lot more flammable.

“It’s not until it gets to that stage when you’ve got a well-developed tree canopy and that initial flush of shrubs starts to thin out again that it becomes less flammable then as a mature forest,” he explained.

Denmark landholder Tony Pedro, instrumental in Dr Zylstra’s visit, has been a member of the East Denmark Bushfire Brigade since 1970 but does not participate in the brigade’s prescribed burns.

“My interpretation of it all came from my first-hand experience as a child living there in the 1960s and being able to easily walk and sometimes run through that forest down to the river to catch marron,” he said.

“And once prescribed burning started, I found that it was this impenetrable thicket.

“I then moved to Denmark in the 1970s to where I’m farming now and found exactly the same phenomenon in the jarrah forest.”

At Mr Pedro’s Denmark property there are about 400 hectares of uncleared land, most of which has not been burned for 60 years.

“The long unburned country opens out into a parkland,” he said.

“I think what’s happening there is that evolution over hundreds of thousands of years has worked out a system to learn to manage itself.

“It doesn’t need to be constantly fired.”

Dr Zylstra said he was “intrigued” by what Mr Pedro had told him.

“It seems like a very, very similar scenario to what’s happening in the Alps, but I don’t just want to go off hearsay, so we will go through this very thoroughly,” he said.

“I’m hoping with these surveys [at Douglas Hill] to fill some gaps in the knowledge that we’ve got, and run it through some intensive analysis to see whether that is what’s actually going to happen.”

He considered recently expressed opinions that Aboriginal people burned forests more than the farmers who followed to be misconceived.

“Indigenous people did burn very often but their fires were very controlled, so even in areas say in the Western Desert, The Pilbara, where there is still fully intact burning traditions, they’re burning less than one per cent of the landscape,” he said.

“You’ve now got people lighting up tens of thousands of hectares at times from helicopters, people buying vehicle-mounted flame-throwers to be able to light up as fast as they can from roadsides.”

Among Traditional Custodians in the Great Southern and Southwest who Dr Zylstra has consulted is Menang man Harley Coyne.

Mr Coyne said he wanted to see the forest preserved but was “not dead against” prescribed burning.

“The issue around tingle forest is that, if it’s going to be managed with fire, they need to be managed intimately,” he said.

“And that, itself, is the difficulty because there can’t be any guarantee that if a prescribed burn went through there that those trees wouldn’t be affected.

“As a Traditional Owner, I welcome any research that will add information and help protect those areas.”

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Shire goes solo with CEO

WOODANILLING has appointed a new Shire CEO but not before considering an overture from a municipality outside the Great Southern to jointly appoint a boss.

On November 16 the Wheatbelt Shire of Wagin wrote to its southern neighbour Woodanilling seeking to hold talks about sharing a CEO.

But Woodanilling had already started recruiting after CEO Belinda Knight’s recent departure broke a 17-year partnership with Shire President Russel Thomson that had been the longest in Western Australia (‘Pulling up stumps’, 1 November).

On Friday, Mr Thomson confirmed that, barring an unforeseen circumstance, former Kojonup and current Derby-West Kimberley CEO Steve Gash would start work as Woodanilling’s new CEO in April.

“He’ll bring a good deal of experience,” Cr Thomson said.

“He wanted to come back to the Great Southern.”

Until Mr Gash starts at Woodanilling, relieving CEO Sean Fletcher will continue to act in the role.

At a Woodanilling council meeting on December 18, councillors unanimously agreed to thank Wagin for its offer and “hold broad-ranging discussions” with its northern neighbour about “the possibilities” of sharing a CEO some time in the future.

The Woodanilling position was advertised with a remuneration package of $126,956 to $198,210 a year.

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What’s in a moniker?

THE term ‘Albanians’ as a collective noun for residents of Albany has caused a bit of a stir recently, so The Weekender decided to dig deeper into the moniker’s origin.

In conjunction with Albany historian Malcolm Traill, The Weekender found what is believed to be the earliest mention of the word ‘Albanian’ in relation to Albany residents in Perth newspaper The Inquirer in its September 29, 1852 edition.

The news story details communication from correspondents in Albany and mentions “…all first-class passengers and Albanians” in the saloon aboard the steamer The Australian.

Mr Traill said he believes the nickname began around the time of Albany becoming a mail port.

“It was known as King George Sound, mainly,” he said.

“It was also known as Sleepy Hollow in the 1840s and 1850s, because not much happened.

“So Albanians was a step up from Sleepy Hollow!”

Mr Traill pointed out that the European country of Albania was not officially independent of the Serbian and Ottoman Empires until 1912.

“So, we were Albanians before Albania was independent,” he said.

“We were also known as Albanyites during the 1890s, but that was mainly by Eastern-staters during the gold rush.”

Further Weekender research found more than 10 references to the phrase ‘Albanians’ in various circumstances.

A correspondent report in the September 14, 1870 edition of The Inquirer described a “slight gold fever at Albany” and that “the Albanians, however, could not believe in the fact, and rumours were rife to the effect that gold had been found”.

A piece written by ‘Bald Head’ in Perth publication Daily News on July 11, 1889 showed dislike to the term.

“Sir,” it reads.

“The people of Albany – not the Albanians – as they are not unfrequently styled even in the news- paper of the place – the people of Albany, let me say again, sir…”

Cricket reports from the Albany Advertiser and Katanning’s Southern Districts Advocate regularly used the phrase.

“In the Albany Week programme was included a cricket match…between players from Perth and Albany,” the February 18, 1903 Advertiser reads.

“Albanians were looking forward to the event with interest.”

“The Katanning cricketers met the Albanians on the ground of the latter on Saturday afternoon last, and had a very good win,” the February 21, 1921 Advocate states.

A conversation between Albany mayor CH Wittenoom, H. Parker MLC and Cr Paul on the controversial topic was penned by the Advertiser on April 21, 1949.

“When the visiting Fire Brigade Officials met in the Lower Town Hall last Saturday morning, His Worship the Mayor (Hon. C. H. Wittenoom) brought up the old controversy in pronunciation ‘Al-bany or Awl-bany?’,” it reads.

“He noted with amusement that Hon. H. Parker MLC favoured the latter.

“‘The reason is simple,’ Mr Parker retorted.

“‘I made no reference to Albany as I knew local inhabitants objected to being called Albanians!’

“Cr Paul with an adequate reply: ‘With the way we’ve been massacred by previous Governments, it’s an adequate term!’ he exclaimed.”

Mr Traill said one of the most recent print examples he could find of ‘Albanians’ was in Donald S Garden’s book, Albany: A Panorama of the Sound from 1827, published in 1976.

“He often refers to Albanians, even to periods as early as the 1830s,” Mr Traill said.

“On page 96, it reads: ‘Albanians have always been proud of their town and staunchly patriotic, while the climate and environment have been conducive to a tranquil and pleasant way of life’.”

Mr Traill said he had never heard the word used as a derogatory term or insult, and that the Weekender’s joint research with him about it had inspired an upcoming project of his.

“I think it’s nice to continue tradition,” he said of using the word ‘Albanians’.

“And it gets people interested in history.

“So much so, it gave me an idea for my upcoming curatorial.

“I was going to talk about Albany in an international context but now, I’m going to do the history of the name Albany – ‘What’s in a name?’

“Albany’s had many names – King George Sound, Kinjarling, Frederickstown…”

Mr Traill’s curatorial will be held on February 5 in the old co-op building at the Museum of the Great Southern.

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